Saturday, November 29, 2008

Bay State Cyclocross: 11.29.08

This looks like fun, but poor little Cory got going so fast rolling down the hill that she got scared and was crying when she stopped. 

All of the NE courses have different defining characteristics, but the one that sets Sterling apart is how unpredictable it can be. It can be warm, cold, snowy, icy, muddy, or dry. It can be one way in the morning, and something entirely different in the afternoon. We racers never know what to expect when we arrive, and while the course is a pretty straight forward athletic field layout, you can't sleepwalk through it.  

Fighting of a household of sickness, I rolled into Sterling feeling pretty good physically, but tentative about the effort to come. The necessary level of nervous energy was missing, and bringing the kids along does nothing to help with getting me focused. They are busy little people and need to get a lot of things done, much of which they cannot do for themselves. Things like "buckling the seat belt" and " getting a drink" and "finding gloves" are easy enough for adults, but little ones need these things too and they rely heavily on the parents to get them done. Time absolutely flies when the kids are around.

Such was the case Saturday morning before the race. Before I knew it we were 10 minutes to start. The weather looked promising, cold but sunny and no wind at all. With a large hill on the south side of the course and a perennial spot on the calendar on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, the sun was sufficiently low and hidden enough to bring the overnight frost into play. Rain the day before left the cinder track a 20 foot wide swath of mud. In the wake of a serious accident at the start of the the 55+ race two hours earlier, the field vetoed the plan to do two laps of the track and shoot straight towards the run up after one dirty and wet starting lap. 

At the whistle the mud was flying and it tasted like cr@p. The traction was poor to very poor, pedaling through the turns to hard pushed you towards the outside lines and into other riders. A quick wipe of the glasses as we leave the track and head towards the run up and the traffic is thick. This was the site of last year's late season thumb injury. I was a bit further back this time, but the same thing went down. A rider lost his front wheel and was on his back, collecting bodies as riders tried to dismount on the frozen ground around him. Dismounting early, I ran straight through the pile of bodies and bikes, emerging in the top 20 on the other side. Sweet. 

Up and over the hill and down towards the horse jump (next photo) I was liking my spot and feeling out the icy course at race speed. It was hard but slick. Just then this little guy came bombing by me going into the shaded section of tight turns and before I can get "dude, it's icy here" out of my mouth, he's down and has bowled over two others in front of me. I like moving up without having to actually work for it. Thanks sketchy racer little man.

Coming through the pit area for the first time I found myself on the pit entrance side of the course with guys who actually needed to pit on the opposite side. Things got a bit physical but no one got hurt or knocked over, everyone got to the pit that needed to and I stayed on course. 

After a lap and a half Colin yelled "you're 16th, your points are right there!" referring to the rider who was just in front of me and the last one that would be getting valuable series points if the race were to finish at that moment. I caught him by the end of that lap, and starting lap 3 I could see Coleman O'Connor coming up to us. We held him off for most of that lap, but on the short ride up I spun my rear tire, falling away from 15th and surrendering 16th to Coleman all at once. Argghhhh!!!! 

Mike Rowell and Mark Gunsauls were coming up to me from the rear, and up ahead Bob Bissonwas slowing and coming back to us. With no warning, Greg Ferguson passed me leaving me 17th on the course... I never saw him until he was in front of me. After another wheel spin on the ride up Rowell and Gunsauls were with me and I thought that I'd stick with them to see if we could make up some spots.

The wind had picked up and Mike's a big guy so while the breeze was keeping him from riding away, his larger frame was giving me a bit of rest behind him. Gunsauls is slippery fast, he rides smooth like Dan Coady and never looks like he is working very hard. After a lap we caught Bisson all together, two passing on his left and the other on his right and Mark attacked hard. Mike and I both responded with strong efforts going onto the pavement near the school to stay on terms. We managed to keep the pace high for a lap and we were making up time on Fergie when Brant Hornberger sat up with what looked like a flat. It turned out to be a cramp and the possibility of sprinting it out for 15th entered my thoughts. 

With 2.5 to go I spun the wheel for a third time on the run up and lost Rowell and Gunsauls just as we were about to catch Fergie. I'm not good enough to make a mistake and expect to do well, let along three mistakes. That bobble allowed Bisson to get back on my wheel as well. Ahead Rowell had caught Fergie and dropped Gunsauls, he was having a good ride. 

Bisson sat on my wheel for a full lap, I should have let him get in front but for some reason that never occurred to me. Being close to him did have one perk, he was the third place 45+ rider and Richard Freis was talking about him and me quite a bit when he would have normally been talking about the leaders. Bisson was really quiet behind me, I recall looking back a few times thinking that he was gone only to see he was still close. Here's he behind me after the run up on the last lap.   

Heading into the barriers for the final time, my left pedal decided not to let go of my shoe, and rather than dismounting and running over the barriers I tried to slide under them. Bisson got past, and he held a 10 bike gap until the second to last straight. I decided to try and get my spot back and as he was slowing down a bit a spectator yelled at him "he's coming!" Thanks dude. Bisson stood and gave it enough of a sprint to neutralize my effort. I rolled in 19th, knowing that I should have had 18th and could possibly have been as high as 15h had I been able to stick with Mike and pull off a Noho Day 2 like sprint. Not likely but placing lower than you should leaves you with nothing to do but look for excuses.

Post race CJ and I rode to the local pizza place and had lunch with Mr. Kenny and Mrs. Dianna. We returned to the venue for the pro races to see teammate Karen Potter take 6th in the women's pro field.


mkr said...

Great write up. I was happy that managed to stay mostly upright. Was hoping we could stick together and move our way up through to do battle over the lone point, which I actually didn't realize I was racing for. Need to get better at counting places. Looking forward to Episode IX or whatever we're at this weekend :)

G-ride said...

sketchy little race dude may have been me. I locked the front wheel, had to get off the brakes, then could not get it slowed down and shot into the tape.

I owed you a spot or two from Vermont, so there you go.

I thought I shot right thru the tape and did not hold any one up. I was trying to assert myself more early in the race...

G-ride said...

maybe it wasn't me and I am not an ass. you would know if it was me, right? could it have been Carl (white/green NHCC)? He was crashing all over the damn place. Teaches me for drafting him.

Besides, i would not have been way up there...

in my defense, i stick my bike alot of places it shouldn't go...but its pretty rare that i go down. I pre-rode that icy corner section multiple times prior to the start. Just got bumped wide and went with it, then locked the front up for a sec. all over but the crying.

matt said...

Mike - You were flying on those last two laps. I would like to think I could have stuck with you had I not spun out, but not likely. Good for you man, that was one hell of a ride.

It wasn't you Jerry, it was some littler guy than you in a green and blue kit.

G-ride said...

phew. oh the shame. called out on your blog.

littler then me? and this from the guy who thinks he is 5-11. guy must have been tiny. it was cold out, maybe he had some shrinkage.

posting from my phone. wow.